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phisticated judges, I have the honor to address, say to this argument, that because no case could be found, where a catholic clergyman had been exempted from an act of perfidy, and sacrilege, that therefore no such exemption could be lawful. Was that reasoning pure or solid ? Was it not more obvious, that since no case had happened of the kind, it was because so unwarrantable a stretch of power had never been attempted, even in the angriest times ? Was not the double argument of prescription and non-user in favor of the exemption? For who is so ignorant of human history, as not to know, that in catholic countries, it would be blasphemy, and in protestant countries, until that very hour where was the instance ? of it. And who that ever cast his eye upon the penal code of Ireland, but must see at the first glance, that if ever it had been lawful, it would not have been without some example, or instance that could be quoted. It would have been an easier snare for the destruction and extirpation of the catholic religion, and the catholic clergy, than those that were devised! It would have spared the tyrants of a misgoverned coun. try, the pain, and their corrupt instruments, the shame of enacting and enforcing so many profligate and monstrous statutes. There would have been no need of
y such fearful penalties against the catholic clergy, as those laid on them for the offences of instructing youth, or celebrating mass, or matrimony, the latter of which, was punished with hanging, if one party proved to be protestant, the other catholic. There would have been no need of laws, giving fifty pounds for the mere discovery of an arch-bishop, twenty for a secular clergyman, and ten for the discovery of a school-master; nor infict
ing pains, penalties, or prémunires, for charitably harbouring them. These, and hundreds of other wretched extravagancies, may be found by any one who will look into the statute books; and yet in the angriest times amidst all these frightful violations of nature, faith and honesty, this torture for the conscience and the heart was still unthought of, although it was well known that the sacranient of penance and confession, was an integral and vital part of the Roman catholic religion. It was known, as it has been proved in this cause, that the priest neither could, nor would reveal the secrets of that confession; and nothing more would have been necessafy than to summon the priest, in the case of every person accused of a crime, which he might be supposed to have confessed, and by putting the question to the priest, and using no other arguments than the counsel has used, commit him to prison till he answered, or in other words till he died.
By one of the ferocious statutes, made in the reign of Queen Ann, two justices of the peace, might summon any of the faitý, to discover when he last heard mass, who celebrated it, and who was present, and also touchiing the abode of any popish clergyman, regular or sed cular, or any school-master, and fully to answer to all circumstances, touching such popish person, and if he had not money to ransom him, commit him to prison for twelve inonths,* yet in all this minute de.
*. For these and other législative enormities, see appendis. "Title, PenaL CODE ABRIGED,
tail of elaborate persecution, it was never attempted to force the confessor, to disclose what his penitent had re, yealed. Whether this arose from some lurking remorse, if remorse could find place in hearts so depraved; or whether it was from some politic source of the benfits that might result from confession even to the oppressors themselves, I cannot say ; but I can say that it never was before attempted; and prove it by this alone, that no instance of it could be shewn.
When Lord Kenyon was told by Mr. Garrow (speak. ing from hearsay and for his client) that Mr. Justice Buller had obliged a protestant clergyman to disclose what a catholic penitent had confessed to him, what did he say? That his brother's opinion was entitled to respect, but that he should have paused before he made such a decision! What would he have said if it had been a catholie priest, called upon under pain of imprisonment, to violate his sacrament, abjure his faith, incur eternal infamy, and betray that holy trust, to which if he proved faithless, he cancelled every pious hope of heaven, and never could be true to any thing. Now it is not what any one of us may think upon this subject that should guide us, it is that christian charity that all should cherish. It is that precept that God has given, to pull the beam from our own eye, before we meddle with the mote that is in our neighbours. Strange then was the conclusion, that what in England was censured by so high authority, and what in Ireland never was attempted, though the rights, lives, liberties, and feelings of the catholics had been assailed through successive ages, in every wanton form that avarice, vengeance and malignity could devise, should yet be law, merely
because no instance could be found where it had been attempted.
Indeed the history of that Irish case is its best comment. It is thus. Lord Dunboyne, who had been a catholic bishop, happened to succeed to one of those estates, which, together with the shadowy title of nobility, had been sufferered, after the perfidious breach of the treaty of Limerick, to descend to the rightful inheritor. And having conformed to the established church, from what motive I know not, devised it to the catholic college of Maynooth. This was a seminary lately established by government, grown wiser, if not better, by its long and many blunders. Before this institution, the young student, destined for the catholic ministry, was doomed to wander, like a poor exile, to some foreign land for education and instruction, and to receive in distant universities that charitable boon, which bigotry and fanaticism had denied bim in his native soil. It was hailed as a happy relaxation of past oppression and intolerance. But still this was a poor step-child, and needed patronage and protection. If ever endowment was lawful it was this one. The devisor having no children, left to his sister and heir at law, already like himself, advanced in years, a very considerable estate. Why then was his will to be avoided? Not because it was vicious, but because he had, in the jargon of the penal code,“ relapsed into popery." How does this sound in our ears? How should any one of us like the thought of having our acts avoided, when we were no more, because we had relapsed into presbyterianism, episcopaJianism, or methodism? Our constitution does not forfit the estate, or annul the acts, or avoid the wills even
of convieted felons or outlaws. Nothing short of high treason can effect a forfeiture, nothing but fraud can avoid a grant or a devise. But in Lord Dunboyne's case, the question was not, whether there was guilt in the devisor, but simply, whether he took his leave of this and his flight to another life, pursuant to an Irish act of parliament, made in breach of a solemn treaty, and in the spirit of all uncharitableness. For who had he to cheat or to defraud? He had disposed of his worldly affairs. He had made his will. His last hour was approaching. The sleep of death sat heavy on his eyelids. He had no account but one to settle. It was that awful reckoning with his redeemer and his God. Forfeitures, premunires, prescriptions and pains lay on this side the grave; his way lay on the other. Still he perceives, as he looks back through the long misty dream of his past life, that he had upon that subject, which now concerned him most, been wavering and inconstant. He remembers that in the days of infancy and innocence he had been trained up in the religion for which his fathers suffered, and that when he grew up he had departed from it. He trembles to die in a faith which he had embraced from policy or from compulsion. He was a man, and the heart of man, like the hunted hare, still in its last extremities will double to its early layer. The world had no longer for him, bribe, terror, or persuasion. He offers to his almighty judge such prayers and sacrifices as he thinks most acceptable, and calls upon him as the God of mercy to pardon all his frailties. And who were those mortal inquisitors that sat to judge when God abové should judge, and to condemn where he is merciful ? What was